| Joel Ward has already played in two preseason games for the Wild, and he’ll see action in at least one more this week. |
There weren’t supposed to be any surprises at this year’s Minnesota Wild training camp presented by Wells Fargo. But after the Wild sent five more players -including highly-touted prospects like Benoit Pouliot and Roman Voloshenko - to Houston on Monday, a nice little story has begun to emerge from team headquarters. Right wing Joel Ward’s name wasn’t supposed to be on the roster following the first round of cuts, considering he’s a tryout player and a bit of an unknown.
Not only is he on the roster, but he’s also got a place in head coach Jacques Lemaire’s brain after impressing Wild management for two weeks, and earning a contract for the 2006-2007 season.
"He climbs in my mind every day," Lemaire told the Star Tribune in Tuesday’s edition. "Do you know why? Because he comes to work. And I got his name in my mind every day, and it’s dangerous. Somebody might lose their job. He plays."
Ward is obviously ecstatic to have earned his first NHL contract, but realizes that there is plenty of work to be done.
"It’s always been my dream to play in the NHL, and it’s getting closer," said the 25-year-old. "I’ve just got to keep working hard and keep plugging away."
The loss of a position player’s spot remains to be seen. Ward could end up in Houston, but his performance may have earned him an early call up should the Wild suffer through injuries in the early going. Terms of the contract were not released.
"He’s earned an NHL contract," said Wild Assistant General Manager, Tom Lynn. " He’s in great shape, and came in ready to compete. Here’s a guy last year that was on an AHL tryout, and now he’s one of the final three players left before final cuts. It’s proof of opportunity for anybody."
Ward is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound Toronto native, who took an unfamiliar route to this point in his NHL career. He spent four years with the University of Prince Edward Island. Last year, he earned a spot with the Houston Aeros and notched 22 points on eight goals and 14 assists in 66 games. He also scored four goals and two assists in eight AHL playoff games.
"I’m basically just trying to do what I do, work hard every day, come prepared to battle in practices and games," said Ward. "Make my way into the lineup and work hard on and off the ice. So far, it seems to be going all right."
Ward and Wild President and General Manager Doug Risebrough will be contacted for more information on this signing.